What is Biofeedback?
Biofeedback is a process that enables an individual to learn how to change physiological activity for the purposes of improving health and performance. Precise non-invasive instruments measure physiological activity such as brainwaves, heart function, heart variability, breathing, muscle activity, and skin temperature. These instruments rapidly and accurately “feed back” information to the user. The presentation of this information — often in conjunction with changes in thinking, emotions, and behavior — supports desired physiological changes. Over just a short period time, these changes can endure without continued use of an instrument.
Goal of Biofeedback:
- Voluntary self-regulation
- Ability to achieve the bodily changes without the feedback instrument
One of the primary methods we use to help clients gain self-awareness and control of their performance is through Heart Rate Variability (HRV).
HRV is a measure of the subtle beat-to-beat changes in your heart rate. When using biofeedback, this is shown as a graph of your heart rhythms. The goal is to have consistent variability, known as High Coherence. Low or Negative HRV has been shown to be an indicator of stress, pressure, anxiety, and chaos in the mind. The stressors and pressures in today’s lifestyle greatly contribute to low HRV, having a negative impact on those trying to achieve consistent high performance. Your heart rate is actually speeding up and slowing down all the time. Unlike your average heart rate, your heart rhythm pattern shows how stress and different emotions are affecting your nervous system. HRV is affected by your thoughts, emotions and how you respond to stressors within your environment. HRV shows the condition of your physical and emotional energy on a moment to moment basis.
Stress / Low Coherence
The graph below shows stressed heart rhythms. The heart rate spikes as a strong reaction to stressful thoughts or situations. This is how stress affects your heart and over time, it will weaken your heart and zap your energy, and certainly affect your performance.
Optimal Performance / High Coherence
This graph shows a rhythmic heart rate pattern, indicating a High Coherence State.
A High Coherence State is associated with:
- Optimal performance (AKA, Being in the Zone!)
- Feelings such as engaged relaxation, peacefulness and being centered – in other words, Being In The Zone.
- Nervous system balanced, feeling less stress
- Decrease in blood pressure
- Increase in mental clarity and focus